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Miami Hurricanes coach Al Golden denies knowing about recruiting violations

New allegations centered on University of Miami football coach Al Golden and his staff — reported Friday by Yahoo! Sports — contend that Golden, according to an unnamed source, “had direct knowledge” of former UM equipment manager Sean “Pee Wee” Allen’s “improper involvement with Miami recruits,” theYahoo! report said.

The Yahoo! report cites as its source “a former Hurricanes athletic department staffer,” as well as “federal testimony given by Allen” in imprisoned former UM booster Nevin Shapiro’s bankruptcy case. It says that Allen, who already was embroiled in the NCAA’s ongoing investigation of UM, “continued improper contact with Miami recruits, which allegedly lasted through his final days working for the Hurricanes in the summer of 2011.”

This is the first time Golden, who was hired in December 2010, has been mentioned in connection to any NCAA wrongdoings. And though the Yahoo! report cites the unnamed former UM staffer as pointing to Golden having “direct knowledge” of Allen’s improprieties, it does not specifically name Golden as overseeing the alleged improper phone calls or recruiting incidents.

“I have been a college football coach for more than 18 years and I am proud of — and I stand by — my record of compliance over that span,” said Golden in a written statement. “As my colleagues and players on all of my teams can attest, I believe strongly in doing things the right way with the best of intentions. The inferences and suggestions in the Yahoo! Sports story that my conduct was anything but ethical are simply false. I, like all of us at UM, have cooperated fully with the joint NCAA-UM inquiry and will continue to do so, so that our program and our University can move forward. Because the process is on-going, I am unable to address any specifics or answer questions on the matter.”

Golden will speak

Golden, a disciplinarian who has continually said the program is heading in the right direction, is scheduled to speak to reporters Monday at the Atlantic Coast Conference football kickoff in Greensboro, N.C. — an event for national media.

The latest Yahoo! story said Allen was used by “at least two” members of Golden’s staff, including former receivers coach Aubrey Hill (now at Florida) and current linebackers coach Micheal Barrow, to help recruit players — an NCAA violation because Allen was not allowed to recruit under NCAA bylaws.

The Hurricanes have been the subject of a lengthy NCAA investigation that was made public after Yahoo! Sports’ original story last August about Shapiro, now serving a 20-year prison sentence for a $930 million Ponzi scheme, and how he provided “thousands of impermissible benefits” to at least 72 UM athletes from 2002 through 2010.

The newest report cites an unnamed UM former “staffer” saying “Allen was used specifically by members of Golden’s staff as an ‘off-the-books’ recruiter,” and that Allen “kept tabs on Miami-area kids, including making calls about their recruitment, and on some occasions, supplying improper transportation to and from campus that aided Miami in its efforts to gain a commitment from some prospects.”

The report goes on to cite the unnamed source as saying Allen “was directed to call those kids and would have never done it without the coaches pushing it.”

Players involved

The current UM players named in Friday’s report as receiving benefits or being recruited by Allen: star sophomore defensive end Anthony Chickillo, cornerback Thomas Finnie, freshman receiver Herb Waters and freshman running back Randy “Duke” Johnson.

Others mentioned in the story were Class of 2012 recruit Amari Cooper, who allegedly was called by Allen but committed to Alabama; Class of 2012 recruit James Burgess, the son of a former Hurricane, who was originally committed to Miami but chose Louisville instead; Class of 2011 recruit Eli Rogers, who also went to Louisville; former Miami Northwestern High quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, now at Lousiville; and Florida State running back Devonta Freeman, who, according to Yahoo!, had multiple phone calls placed from Allen’s phone.

The Associated Press reported that it obtained an e-mail in which UM president Donna Shalala told trustees Thursday that “someone who had a low level position at one time” would likely accuse Barrow of recruiting violations. Shalala, according to the AP, said it has already been investigated.

The AP said earlier Friday that, according to two sources, the NCAA visited UM this month as part of its ongoing investigation. A Miami Herald source familiar with the situation would not confirm the visit, but said Friday that a resolution in the case was not expected “anytime soon.”

The unnamed former staffer, according to Friday’s Yahoo! story, alleged that on Jan. 22, 2011, Allen arranged for now former UM defensive end Olivier Vernon (a new Miami Dolphin) and then-“visiting recruit Anthony Chickillo to gain entrance to BT’s Gentlemen’s Club in Coral Gables.”

The report cited the source saying Allen “paid for Chickillo’s drinks and entertainment at the strip club, and that Allen’s phone records indicate “he traded 12 phone calls with Vernon and two with now former UM defensive tackle Marcus Forston” between 6:49 p.m. and 11:10 p.m. that night. Yahoo! said Vernon and Forston, both of whom received suspensions last season in connection to the NCAA case, were the hosts for Chickillo’s official visit.

The report also cited a phone call by Allen being made to Finnie “the day before the change in his commitment” from South Carolina to Miami.

“The only persuasion my son received to go to the University of Miami came from me and my wife,” Finnie’s father, Thomas Finnie Sr., told The Miami Herald on Friday night. “We don’t even know who that guy is.”

Phone calls made

The report detailed seven phone calls from Allen to Waters on June 11, 2011; and a call from Miami Norland High’s Johnson — one of the best high school running backs in the nation — to Allen on June 15, 2011.

Calls made by The Miami Herald on Friday to Johnson’s mother and Chickillo’s parents were not returned.

But Johnson’s high school coach, Daryle Heidelburg, told the Miami Herald that Johnson called Allen “to find out if he could borrow something with UM on it for his trip to the Nike Combine up in Oregon.” The coach said Johnson “never ended up getting anything from him.”

Ray-Ray Armstrong, a high-profile senior safety for UM, was dismissed from the team by Golden on Wednesday.

Armstrong was suspended by the NCAA for the first four games of the 2011 season for accepting impermissible benefits from Shapiro. UM has not given a reason for Armstrong’s dismissal.

UM, which finished 6-6 last season and self-imposed a bowl ban, begins training camp Aug. 3. The Hurricanes’ first game is Sept. 1 at Boston College.

Miami Herald sports writer Manny Navarro contributed to this report.

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